Col­lege of So. Md. grad­u­ates largest class

Nearly 900 de­grees and cer­tifi­cates awarded at spring com­mence­ment

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son­comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

It was a bright sunny day Thurs­day as hun­dreds of new grad­u­ates of the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land walked across the stage on the front lawn of the La Plata cam­pus to re­ceive their diplo­mas.

The col­lege’s 57th Spring Com­mence­ment was the school’s largest grad­u­at­ing class ever, ac­cord­ing to CSM Pres­i­dent Bradley Got­tfried, with 560 can­di­dates for 882 de­grees and cer­tifi­cates.

“All ages, so many na­tion­al­i­ties, races, in­di­vid­u­als who have spe­cial chal­lenges, they come to our col­lege be­cause they know that we can help them to be suc­cess­ful,” Got­tfried said.

The old­est grad­u­ate was Shirley Jasper, 63, of White Plains. Jasper at­tended col­lege af­ter high school, but left due to fi­nan­cial rea­sons. She at­tended col­lege off and on and came to CSM in 1997.

“I started go­ing to school here, but I dropped out be­cause I couldn’t af­ford it,” Jasper said.

Jasper said that af­ter she was laid off dur­ing the re­ces­sion in 2008, she learned of the 2009 stim­u­lus bill pro­vid­ing re­train­ing for those laid off and re­turned to CSM in 2011.

“I was like, ‘I’m tak­ing ad­van­tage of that’, be­cause I’m not one to sit home on the couch; I’m a worker. So I came back here and I never looked back,” Jasper said.

She said she en­joyed tak­ing classes with stu­dents, even those much younger than her­self.

“I liked go­ing to school with younger peo­ple, they made me feel youth­ful,” Jasper said.

Jasper is plan­ning on at­tend­ing the Univer­sity of Mary­land Univer­sity Col­lege and ob­tain­ing a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in hu­man re­sources.

Sa­muel Peter, 17, is CSM’s youngest grad­u­ate. The Cobb Is­land teenager was home­schooled and be­gan tak­ing classes at CSM as a dual en­rolled stu­dent at age 13, com­plet­ing his first year of col­lege by the time he fin­ished his high school stud­ies.

Peter said tak­ing col­lege classes at such a young age re­ally helped him to ma­ture.

“I was re­ally young, and it was kind of dif­fi­cult, be­cause I was just com­ing out of my child­hood, and I was forced to grow up,” Peter said.

Peter said he is plan­ning on trans­fer­ring to St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land and ma­jor­ing in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence, per­haps with a mi­nor in crim­i­nol­ogy.

Navy veteran Kara Mer­ritt of Lex­ing­ton Park at­tended CSM af­ter com­plet­ing a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy. Mer­ritt said she al­ways wanted to be a nurse, and CSM’s nurs­ing program felt right at home to her, Mer­ritt said.

“For me, it felt like an easy tran­si­tion, be­cause the nurs­ing program was much like the mil­i­tary; you still have a uni­form, you have to be proper, you still can’t have your nails done,” Mer­ritt said.

Mer­ritt said she hopes to find work as a nurse at a Vet­er­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion hospi­tal.

When Tabish Nawaz of Wal­dorf first came to the U.S. from Pak­istan, he spoke no English, he said. He grad­u­ated near the top of his class at West­lake High School, and now is grad­u­at­ing with high­est hon­ors at CSM. He and his sis­ter Bushwa are the first in their fam­i­lies to at­tend col­lege, he said.

“I’m go­ing to the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park, study­ing the bi­o­log­i­cal sciences, and get a bach­e­lor’s de­gree from there, then move on to Johns Hop­kins,” Nawaz said. “My ca­reer goal is to be­come a car­diac sur­geon.”

Also grad­u­at­ing from CSM with high­est hon­ors was James Walls of Hugh­esville. Walls, who was di­ag­nosed with autism spec­trum dis­or­der at age 9, is plan­ning on at­tend­ing the Univer­sity of Mary­land Bal­ti­more County in the fall and chang­ing his ma­jor from English to com­puter sci­ence.

“My end goal is to be a writer, but I can do that with­out be­ing an English ma­jor, and be­ing an English ma­jor doesn’t help pay the bills,” Walls said.

Kier­ston Hill of Prince Fred­er­ick is the first grad­u­ate from CSM’s Pres­i­den­tial Schol­ars program. Pres­i­den­tial Schol­ars is a new program in Calvert County al­low­ing stu­dents in the top 10 per­cent of their high school class to re­ceive a full schol­ar­ship at CSM and par­tic­i­pate in ad­vanced learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Hill was dual en­rolled at CSM while also fin­ish­ing her stud­ies at Calvert High School.

“It wasn’t that chal­leng­ing, but I found it to be a very ma­tur­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause I had to man­age my time very care­fully, so I learned a lot about what it takes to be in col­lege, and the dif­fer­ence be­tween col­lege and high school, so there was a lot of per­sonal growth,” Hill said.

Hill said she is plan­ning on trans­fer­ring to the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park in the fall and ma­jor­ing in psy­chol­ogy and coun­sel­ing.

The stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive speaker was James Ed­ward Bowie, 33, of Hugh­esville. Bowie said he dropped out of col­lege in his sopho­more year to join his fa­ther in start­ing a new busi­ness. That busi­ness col­lapsed fol­low­ing the Great Re­ces­sion of 2008. Bowie said he found work on a golf course and as a restau­rant server.

“At this time I was ap­proach­ing 30 and I started to re­al­ize that I need to find a ca­reer with a fu­ture and earn­ing po­ten­tial,” Bowie said.

Bowie, who ma­jored in en­gi­neer­ing, urged his fel­low grad­u­ates to con­tinue to be prob­lem solvers and in­no­va­tors.

“We need to con­stantly look to the fu­ture;, and con­stantly look for new and bet­ter ways to do our jobs and con­stantly pur­sue our ed­u­ca­tion,” Bowie said.

The key­note ad­dress was given by J. Black­lock Wills Jr., chair­man and CEO of The Wills Group Inc. Wills urged grad­u­ates to pre­pare for a world of con­stant change.

“In­di­vid­ual skills de­vel­op­ment is key in to­day’s busi­ness cli­mate, and if you don’t keep up, you’ll be left be­hind” Wills said.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

A Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land grad­u­ate wears a cap dec­o­rated with the phrase “Who’s hir­ing” dur­ing spring com­mence­ment cer­e­monies held last Thurs­day.

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